Migne, Jacques-Paul (1800-1875)

MIGNE, JACQUES-PAUL (1800-1875)

A French and editor. He received his ordination in 1824. Seeing that the patristic and ecclesiastical were dissipated in a multitude of collections and were often incomplete or unavailable, he conceived the idea of bringing these together in a series or set of series of uniform size for the benefit of scholars. His preliminary plan envisioned 979 quarto-size volumes with two columns to the page. This included Latina (221 vols.), Patrologia Graeca (161 vols.), the Encyclopédie théologique (171 vols.), and a number of other series of documentary and ecclesiastical character. He succeeded in publishing his volumes at Bailly in Paris, which brought him many subscribers. But his ambition went far beyond his estimate, for he eventually conceived of the publication of about two thousand volumes.

In 1850, with the encouragement and support of the archbishop of Versailles, he found it necessary to establish his own printing press and collaborate with regular technicians in the art of printing. Migne had the vision and ability to recruit highly qualified priestly assistants in various fields, such as Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. In the end, a vast press, with all its divisions, and an army of three hundred workers made it possible for a succession of series to see the light of day. A new volume appeared almost every week.

Standing high among his products of enduring value, in spite of the existence of textual errors and misprints, are the two Patrologiae: the Latina comprising as complete as possible a body of ecclesiastical writings in to the reign of Innocent III, in 221 volumes (Paris, 1844-1864), including four volumes of indices; and the Graeca, with the Greek original and a parallel translation, in 161 volumes (Paris, 1837-1886), brought down to the year 1439.

In 1868 a fire destroyed the printing establishment, but the printed texts of both works continued to be reproduced with all their imperfections as the only complete record of patristic literature in existence. Naturally these volumes included the fathers of the Coptic church, who wrote mainly in Greek and partly in their native Coptic.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Leclerq, H. “Migne (Jacques-Paul).” In Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, Vol. 11, pt. 1. Paris, 1933.

AZIZ S.